Horse Back Riding, Colorado
Well here I sit on my first train in the good ol' USA. I'm rolling on through the heartland of America, the breadbasket of the world. I'm feeling awfully civilized. I was just talking to a friend on my cell phone but now I'm too far away from the city to get a signal. Lost the call… Alas. So I plugged in and powered up my computer, kicked off a few tracks from the soundtrack of 'Tortilla Soup' and finally began to update the ol' travel log….
It's been a little while since I wrote a journal entry. The last time was in Maine just after the World Trade Center attacks. It's been just over two months since our world was rocked by a group of faceless terrorists. Not sure how our little world saga will end. I just hope that in our quest to instill peace throughout the world we don't incite more violence than we quell. I'll not put forth any political thoughts just here… I've got my own little saga I'm working on. And damn those terrorists all to hell for fuckin' up my little jaunt around the world. (See how self-centered I can be!)
My Travel Journal
Saturday, November 10, 2001
I guess the lesson I learned from losing Molly is that the world can be unfair and unsafe but we still need to continue to live and love. We still need to risk exploring our worlds and ourselves even if it doesn't feel safe or if we don't want to. That's life. You can either hide on the couch or get up and go for a run. I've found that once you start running you feel great and you're glad you did. The hard part is just getting off the couch. (Stop rolling your eyes at me. Can't you see how insightful I am? LOL!!)

OK enough with the philosophy on with the trip….
I promised my dad I would accompany him and his friends on an elk-hunting trip to Colorado. Seems that my dad's favorite thing to do is to tromp through the woods heavily armed looking for game. Something
about hanging out with fellow hunters in the high country makes for a euphoric setting. Some folks like candle light dinners and long walks on a secluded beach. Not my dad. He is happiest when he's high up in the mountains, hasn't showered in a week, has a cheap cigar hanging out of his mouth and is crammed into a small smoky tent with men that also enjoy the thrill of killing animals for sport.  I wonder how much fun it would be if the animals too were heavily armed. That would mix things up a bit. I wonder how merry our little troop of hunters would be if the damn elk were shooting back….. (Just a random thought… every now and then they just creep into my head. I know not from whence they come.)
Anyway, we drove all the way from Houston, Texas, to Durango, Colorado. There were five guys driving out from Houston and two from Sioux City, Iowa. We left Houston in a small convoy of trucks. We took three cars, one horse trailer and two horses. My dad and I drove out in his Toyota Fore Runner. The drive out took approx. 19 hours. The highlight of the drive out occurred when my dad (who also has random impulsive thoughts) decided while he was driving 70 MPH in a convoy that he needed a haircut. So without pulling over, switching drivers or even slowing down, he pulled out his scissors and started cutting away.
Now as a concerned passenger and a loving son, I asked my dad if he wouldn't prefer getting his hair cut in a salon or possibly making the suggestion that should any necessary adjustments to his coiffure need immediate addressing perhaps it could wait until we slowed our trajectory down to something that wouldn't get us a ticket in a school zone. Now keep in my mind that my dad (God bless him) was heavily armed and readying himself to kill something. So my demeanor was appropriate for our situation. No! My dad's hair needed a trim. It needed a trim right then and there. It needed managed care STAT. Even if that meant driving with his knee while he looked in the rear view mirror gently touching up his sideburns. Having only the utmost confidence in my dad's abilities (as only a real son can have for his loving father) I let my father carry on, grateful that at the very least he was using his scissors and not his 14 inch hunting knife.

So onward we rolled. Westward Westward Westward. We met up with an outfitter in Colorado who with the help of approx 15 horses and 3 hired hands packed us 15 miles into the high country. Horseback riding in the mountains of Colorado while the aspen leaves turn golden and drop to the ground all around you is divine. It's truly hard to beat such an experience. The trail ride up and out of the mountains was to me the highlight of the trip.
We did have a rather difficult and definitely dangerous ride up into the mountains. Seems that our guide had another group of hunters who paid for a fully guided trip. We simply paid to be packed into the mountains and a week later to be packed out. As the other group of hunters paid significantly more for their trip, our needs weren't catered to until theirs had been. As a result we got a late start packing out into the high country. My dad was very concerned that we would have to set up our base camp in the dark.
We awoke early in the morning and met the outfitter at 8:30 am We began our horseback ride up the mountain around 1:00 pm. The ride up was absolutely stunning. I rode my dad's horse Andy. He is a great big brown horse (sorry I don't know what kind of horse Andy is. I failed horse basics 101) Andy did great on the way up but as we gained in elevation he began to run out of steam. Seems he wasn't used to the altitude. I felt guilty sitting on top of Andy while he huffed and puffed. I finally got off his back and walked along beside him for a while. Anyway, by 8:30 pm we were still climbing into the mountains. There was snow on the ground and we were above the tree line. The sun had just set and darkness was falling across the land. Not only did we not have our camp setup we weren't even close to where we going to setup our base camp.

I'm not sure if you ever read the book 'Into Thin Air,' but it is about a group of climbers who died while trying to ascend Mt. Everest. Seems the air up on Everest gets a little thin, which makes thinking clearly a difficult thing to do. The consequences of which can get you killed.
So as I was pondering our elevation, our proximity to our final destination, the fact that both I and my horse could no longer see the trail (and the cliffs) and the merry men with whom I had chosen to travel, I pondered about the effects the lack of oxygen in the air were having on my reasoning ability. The situation was going from an 'oh isn't this fun' to 'what the hell are we doing?' By 10:00 pm we realized that the pass we needed to cross to get to the spot we wanted to make base camp was covered in a snowdrift. The snowdrift was impassable. So we embarked in a new direction, down what looked to me in the dark to be a rather steep cliff. Not only could I not see the trail but my horse couldn't see it either. Andy was slipping and sliding all over the place. I was very nervous riding down this pass in the dark. I kept envisioning Andy falling over and tumbling down the side of the mountain (with me on top of him). So after about the 15th time Andy lost his footing, I climbed down off his back and led him down the trail. The problem was Andy kept invading my personal space. Seems he didn't want to let me get more than about 3 inches in front of him. So as I was trying to scramble through the snow and rocks Andy was (how shall I put this?) right on my ass. 'Damn it Andy' I screamed 'Back up you're walking all over me'. After Andy stepped on my foot for the second time, I had new thoughts dancing through my head; that of Andy falling on me and both of us tumbling down the mountain. This time I would be under Andy instead of on top of him.
At approx 11:00 pm after riding our horses for more than 10 hours we had reached the spot where we were going to pitch camp. I was sent on the mission of getting 5 pieces of wood a mere 18 feet long. These were needed for the tent. Ya see this tent is so big it doesn't come with poles. HELLO who goes camping with a tent that has no supporting poles???? Anyway, this was explained to me while every muscle in my body was screaming at me, 'why did you put me on that horse for the past 10 hours?
This was being explained to me while I tried to breathe the cold air wanting of oxygen. This was being explained to me in the dark. 'Here son take this 12 inch saw and come back with 5 trees sans the limbs. Hurry up cause we are all cold and tired and we can't even begin to setup the tent and go to sleep until we have those logs.' All I can say is at that moment; I'm glad that I didn't come with a gun.

Off into the darkness and snow I went in search of trees to cut down. I'm happy to say that by 1:00 am we were all snugly sleeping in our erected tent. So began our weeklong trip into the mountains.
The weather was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky and the days were warm and sunny. We hiked all over the mountain ranges in the area. Of course, Colorado is beautiful so it's hard to not have fun in the mountains. My days were spent reading and hiking while my fellow companions spent their days scanning the countryside for elk. (Although, I noticed a lot of napping going on from the hunters.) I would happen upon them from time to time out like a light. My father who made a big deal about getting up early to go out into the wild in search of the big elk would wander off appox. 1 mile, find a sunny spot overlooking a valley and go to sleep. Why he didn't prefer sleeping in the tent in his warm sleeping bag, I'm not sure.
Now I love my Dad. Bless him! He's a good man but it seems he has a secret obsession. I wasn't aware of this prior to our trip but by the trips end it became painfully obvious just how deeply this obsession had consumed him. He was helpless! I suspect it all started innocently enough but over time I could see how this new toy had sucked him in. How its allure had rendered him powerless.  Let this be a warning to all would be 'Global Positioning System' purchasers.  
Once used and understood these GPS devices render you helpless.  You can hardly walk a flight of stairs without consulting your trusted GPS to find out your change in elevation, distance from starting point, estimated time to destination, etc. My dad was absolutely enthralled with this new device. It was like his crystal ball, his touching stone. It knew just where we were. It knew how we were doing. It kept track of our progress. It was like proof concrete proof that not only we existed but that we had movement. We couldn't take more than 27 steps before dad was checking the GPS. 'Look son it says here we moved 234 feet and changed elevation by 63 feet. Now granted that's only plus or minus 40 feet or so' Oh for god fuckin' sakes dad put that damn thing away. Can't ya just see we walked about 1/3rd of the way down this hill?
Killing me! Speaking of killing me….

Two of the guys on the trip shot elk. One of the guys shot his elk just at sundown. His elk fell into a valley on the other side of a mountain ridge. He hiked back to base camp to get some help. We all headed out into the dark to help gut the downed elk. Always a pleasant thing to do. By 10:00 pm we were back at camp feasting on elk tenderloin. (for the record, it wasn't yummy)
The ride out of the mountains wasn't as eventful as the ride in. Everything went smoothly. Riding downhill and in the daylight made the whole ride out enjoyable. Everything was going great until we got back to the car. That's when chaos started to reign. We were in such a hurry to get back to town. All I could think of was a clean bathroom with warm running water, of a meal that didn't consist of tortillas and sardines, of a bed with a mattress. We quickly packed up our horses into the horse trailer, threw all our crap in the car (or so I thought) and headed off. After approx. 15 minutes, I realized I left my camera on the side of the road. For the record, NOT A GOOD FEELING!!!! I not so calmly explained to my dad that I left my camera. I got side tracked with the horses and put my camera down and forgot to pick it up. He did a quick assessment of our fuel situation and determined we didn't have enough gas to go back and pick up the camera and make it back into town. I told him we just would have to run out of gas because we HAD to get my camera. I'll leave it to you readers to conjure up at just that moment the tension in the car.


Back we headed for the camera. Both glaring at each other. Luckily, my camera was still by the side of the road. Now the question was not, 'is my camera gone forever' but rather 'how far outside of town will it be before we run out of gas?' We rolled into the gas station on fumes. Relieved we both gave each other a hearty pat on the back. We had made it out of the mountains. We had gotten all our stuff safely back to the car.
We were now back in civilization with a full tank of gas and some junk food courtesy of the quickie mart at the gas station.
At long last we were headed home! After being up in the mountains for so long the thought of my home, my bed, was so sweet I couldn't stand it. East! The open road. We rolled on first in our caravan. If we hurried we would be home in 19 hours. Padre and I we happily contemplating our reunions and our plans for the following day when God decided to alter our course….. Just when we were beginning to relax a deer ran right out in front of our car. And I mean right out in front of our car! Padre didn't even have time to take his foot off the accelerator before we slammed into the deer at approx. 70 MPH. OUCH! And I'm screaming 'ouch' for both the deer and the car. Both suffered sizable damages. Albeit, the deer got the worse end of the deal. The car was rendered undriveable. We got the car towed to the nearest town and spent the next 2 days awaiting a radiator to be shipped in from Denver.
So after a nice 2 day stint in the metropolis of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, my dad and I drove the 19 hour trip back to Houston in a patched together very beat up looking Toyota and except for getting pulled over for speeding in Texas and a flat tire at 1:00 am we made it home without further incident. A father-son adventure to be sure!
So upon returning to Austin, I needed to make one more side trip before the big trip around the world. I needed to get a grandma fix and a mommy and step dad fix. So I flew to Kansas City for a week and I'm taking a side trip to St. Louis to visit my grandmother and other family members. That puts me here on a train to St. Louis. I should be arriving soon. I can't wait to beat my grandma at a game of gin rummy. She's pretty good at gin rummy but no match for her younger and stronger grandson.
Stay tuned for more adventure travels…. My sister, brother-in-law and I are all headed to South America in a few weeks….
Group Hug
Dave ;-)